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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chronicles of Urban Nomads

Title:  Chronicles of Urban Nomads
Author:  Anthology
Publisher: Readomania
Date:  2015
Price: Rs. 225
Pages: 175

Chronicles of Urban Nomads is an anthology of short stories, sectioned into two parts named "Imagine" and "Musings". The stories that are selected have a common ground, not a theme but the narrative style, whether the narrator is a third person or an object or something deeply hidden within. The stories differ
 as some deal with different kind of relationships, father and daughter, lovers, couples in an arranged marriage and sometimes even a stranger. Here  are the stories that left a mark on me: 

 In section one "Imagine", the second story entitled  The Blue Slippersby  Kirthi Jayakumar is a perfect example of little dreams and bitter realities of human wants and nature. Being human itself is a limitation and this story puts the thought so simply that it hits you directly. The picture of the girl with the blue slippers is sure to have a lasting impression on your mind for a very long time. 

Fate has a funny manner of expressing itself and prophecies can fall true sometimes in a manner unthinkable, this phenomena is beautifully portrayed by Deepti Menon in A Little Nugget of Fear.  However there is a greater player called "Reality" and sometimes it can strike one hard, when one suddenly realizes something so prevalent yet unseen by the folds blinding your vision. The happy realization coming with a jerk is just one aspect, the manner of story telling, the planning, the conversation, all of it couldn't have been better than what has been depicted in EFIL by Bhaswar Mukherjee. After reading his second story from him in Crossed &Knottetd, I can confidently say he is a writer to look forward to.

The book also has some interesting attempts at story telling, stories otherwise regular made interesting by choosing an inanimate narrator or the vantage point of observation, giving the writer scope of creativity is what Ayan Pal has tried in Confessions of a Benarasi Saree, by telling the saree's tale and thereby the character's. This is one story that truly justifies tha title as it talks about the common problems of Urban youth, confusion and indecisiveness. My Soulmate by Jenneker Lawrence again attempts a similar strategy and so do a few more stories in the book.

A Vicious Battle by Aravind Sampath is a story of learning the meaning of true love, amidst fame, success and popularity. The Wait by Ashay Abbhi could have been written better with a more poetic tone to make one feel the character's plight, lying in wait for death.

The next part "Musingsbegins with a heartbreak with a very powerful story The Last Letter, about a father- daughter relationship by Dipankar Mukherjee. A Shackled Destiny  by Sharavya Gunipudi is another equally powerful, heartbreaking though not unheard a story of a mothers search for her lost son.

Bizarre happenings find their way into this section entertaining the readers with  Pradeep Moitra's, The Face on the Canvas. It being open ended story of a woman traveler, stuck in a small village and mesmerized by the face on the canvas. Arranged Marriage by Japneet Boyal is a touching tale of how sometimes contrasting circumstances can form the bond between strangers that marry as arranged by parents. While Hopes & Promises by Rahul Biswas , on the other hand talks of humorous ways of fate and second chances at relationships, Hide and Seek by Niranjan Navalgund, is the strange game of two writers in love.  Mandira by Anupama Jain presents an irony of a character being modified into the very person they hated.

As is with every anthology, there are a few stories that amuse you, a few that entertain, a few that tear you and some that have a lasting impression on your mind. There are definitely some that do not impress you but this anthology has more of those that left me amazed. EFIL and  The Blue Slippers are a must read. Mandira, A Little Nugget Of Fear and Arranged Marriage fall next in line.

If you are a fan of short stories, pick this one for a good, light read. 

Rating: 3/5.

Crossed & Knotted (India's First Composite Novel)

Title:  Crossed & Knotted (India's First Composite Novel)
Edited by : Sutapa Basu
Publisher: Readomania
Date:  2015
Price: Rs. 250
Pages: 256

India finally has a composite novel to its credit thanks to the nascent publishing house called Readomania which this year launched “Crossed &Knotted”.  To begin with a composite novel is one where multiple writers together write a story complete in itself however the combination of chapters is a new story altogether completing one full circle. The interesting yet challenging part in the exercise if for the writers to begin where the former left, add the ingredients of their imagination but  justify the plot and bring it to a full circle in the end. The exercise needs immense co-ordination and is sometimes an impossible feat to achieve, a reason the task had never been attempted so far.
The story   "Crossed & Knotted"  was not a complete random flow of events but built on a pre-decided exoskeleton. The writers then were allowed to set their imaginations flow to explore into the lanes nearby, the lands far off.

It all begins with a simple man Sudip, who is madly attracted to Megha, a complete contrast to his personality. She being everything he wasn't, bold, confident and sure. Though she didn't fit the mold of the perfect "daughter-in'law" for his family, against every resistance, he marries her. The rosy picture collapses there as she discards her cover, only to reveal her true character: mean, proud and selfish. He is unhappy, his parents are ill-treated everyday but in the midst of all that they have a daughter, Shivi. Her presence makes him a little happy, but is the happiness truly for him? As Megha's tyranny continues, each day the sufferings of his parents worsen. She just takes over everything that is Sudip’s, his property and his soul. This continues till one day when she dies leaving questions behind. This first chapter by Sutapa Basu, sets a perfect essence for the novel from where the water is only murkier.

The second story begins with personally what is my favorite part in the entire book "The Diary of Joseph Varghese". Shivi, Sudip’s daugher finds this diary, only to be hooked to it, for the lead Joseph Varghese is a man who visits a graveyard of his beloved, Lily. The diary has irregular entries with  moments from the point their love began to his loneliness after her. When Shivi finds herself attracted to James, he discovers this diary only to enter later in it that he found true love again and hope he won’t have to do the same thing again. The confusion around "Who is Joseph Varghese?" "How did Lily die?" keeps one hooked to the book throughout. Ayan Pal's formation of this character is truly the flavor the entire book, the reader keeps craving for.

Sanchita Sen, the writer of the next story goes onto another lane, an important filler to set base for the next chapter by Arvind Passey. He with a clever word play knits and cuts a world where we meet the creator of Joseph Varghese or do we? This story just adds to the former plot in making it more confusing yet increasing the amplitude of the readers curiosity at the same time. It doesn't stop there as the enxt writer in line, Mithun Mukherjee brilliantly crafts the next plot. He creates a fact or fiction debate around Lily and her existence. The story being open ended will just leave the reader debating with themselves, making one read further hoping for a clue. This is the most crossed and knotted story of the entire book.

One then travels in the search of truth, unanswered questions and unsolved mysteries, through the lands of Afghanistan, for that is where the writer Avanti Sopory takes us with the story of Catherine, a  journalist friend of Sudip. The story of a woman fighting for education, children wanting to escape, isn't what you haven't heard of if you read stories set in the backdrop of these lanes. But these well written simple stories that wonder into what you think is wilderness, only to come back in a full circle is a commendable job speaking volumes of the crucial co-ordination and Bhaswar Mukherjee deserves the praise.

The next few chapters takes us through the lives of different characters, with the ingredients of love, trust, friendship, only to come back to Sudip's family. He is a happy man, lucky to have found love again. However, can past just vanish? Mysteries remain hidden? Or will there only be more to cover what happened? 
I congratulate Readomania, the editor Sutapa Basu for the mammoth task of compilation, editing and most of all the writers for the co-ordination to successfully bring out a gripping story from an exercise that began as an experiment. They have exceeded beyond expectations of the reader in not just completing the circle but also making smaller interesting circles within the crosses and knots. The stories are written in a simple, easy to understand language and each writer does stand out with his or her own writing style without tempering with the tone of the book. This journey across lands may get one confused as with each story there is a new character, but the plot makes one going only to smile wickedly in the end with the clever endings in some or touching ones in another. The book will get you hooked right from the first story only to keep you judging which one is the best. 

The book being the first in a composite novel category from India, despite being from a nascent publishing house, has set a high benchmark for anyone wanting to attempt such an exercise. One of the best books of 2015 undoubtedly and the most interesting one in recent times. A highly recommended read.  

Rating : 4/5.

To know more about the book, watch this video: